Monthly Archives: January 2012
I have an annual pass to the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park. I go at least once a week to one of them.
The Zoo occupies 100 acres while Safari Park has 1,800 acres.
The Zoo is in Balboa Park near downtown San Diego, while Safari Park is near Escondido, about 45 miles northeast of downtown San Diego.
Safari Park was founded in 1972 while the Zoo was founded as part of the 1915 Panama-California International Exposition.
Both the Zoo and the Safari Park are internationally recognized botanical gardens. When you go to either of them, then, it’s always worthwhile to spend some time looking at the flora, too.
Since it’s been raining off and on for the past several days, something that’s rare in San Diego, the photographers are out en masse looking for those magical pictures with water on them.
I got mine at the San Diego Zoo:
That’s a passionflower (Passiflora sp.), one of my top five flowers. There are about five hundred species of passionflowers but only nine are native to the United States. Most of them are vines, and San Diegans like to grow them on their chain-link fences to lessen the ugliness of that type of fence. You can see the chain link fence in the background of those two pictures.
Passionflowers have a unique structure, and once you’ve seen one, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever forget it. You’ll be able to identify that “weird vine with a beautiful flower” that’s growing on your neighbor’s fence.
The passion fruit is quite large for a vine, and the fruit of Passiflora edulis is actually called passionfruit and used for food and juice in many parts of the world. I can attest to the flavor of the passionfruit since I have enjoyed many a passionfruit margarita at Islands burger restaurant in San Diego’s Mission Valley. Hmmm, maybe it’s the alcohol that’s flavorful?
Pictures taken by Russel Ray using a Canon 550D and post-processing using Corel PaintShop Pro X4.
Sometimes you just get lucky.
Not too far from me is a mountain peak named Mt. Helix. It’s a great place to watch sunrises and sunsets, and I go there often. The sunsets are the best because you can get downtown San Diego in the picture on a clear night.
On this day, as I was walking from my car to where I was going to wait for the sun to set, I saw these two guys just hanging out:
That was a snapshot in that I didn’t do anything other than set the camera (Canon 550d) to P and took a snapshot. I got lucky because I like everything about that picture — the lighting, the composition with the bench, the big tree, the rocks, just the right perspective to the picture with the guys sitting on the rocks instead of the bench (how guy-like). Even the houses about 500 feet below are in pretty good focus to indicate how high up the guys were.
Picture taken on November 29, 2011. Here is the reason why I went to Mt. Helix that day:
Great clouds are rare in the San Diego area, so if you come here and see them during the day, consider yourself lucky. Then head to Mt. Helix in La Mesa, Mt. Soledad in La Jolla, or Cowles Mountain on the La Mesa/San Diego border because the sunsets will be awesome.
Three friends and I went to Balboa Park to go to the San Diego Orchid Society’s winter show yesterday. I came home with 132 pictures of orchids, but I also came home with this picture:
That’s a male monarch butterfly. A female would have a little black dot on its wing.
After leaving the orchid show, we went over to the Botanical Building, just a few hundred feet away from where the orchid show was. The Botanical Building was also full of orchids but nothing that we hadn’t already seen at the orchid show.
That beautiful monarch butterfly was sitting outside the entrance to the Botanical Building when we went in. I would have stopped then to take its picture, but there was already a group of photographers waiting their turn. Since I have pictures of monarch butterflies, I decided to skip the monarch line.
When we came out, our monarch was still sitting there but there was no line. So I quickly made a line of one and came home with that picture.
Right next to where the monarch was sitting is a California milkweed (Asclepias californica), which I just identified tonight while writing this post. Monarchs love milkweeds, basically needing them to survive.
During the summer the milkweed is full of monarch caterpillars:
Here is a picture of the flowers of the California milkweed:
Pictures taken by Russel Ray using a Canon 550D and post-processing using Corel PaintShop Pro X4.
A couple of years ago I went walking along the jetty where the San Diego River meets the Pacific Ocean and found a large population of feral cats living in the rocks. They were very well taken care of because there were dozens of food and water containers that had been set out for them. They weren’t feral cats at one point in the past, though. Instead, most of them were family pets.
In talking with many of the people walking on the jetty and watching the sun set, I found out that the population exploded during the past few years with the downtown in the economy and people losing their homes to foreclosure. People would abandon their pets there.
Note: Folks, if you don’t want your family pet or can no longer take care of it, please take it to your nearest no-kill animal shelter rather than dropping it off in an isolated location. That’s just plain cruel.
I go out to the jetty once a month just to take pictures of the many beautiful cats and wish that I could take them all home with me. Following are eight pictures from my most recent trek.
All pictures taken by Russel Ray using a Canon 550D and post-processing using Corel PaintShop Pro X4.
On of the great things about living in San Diego (and there are many!) is that flowers are always blooming. Many plants that are only supposed to bloom at certain times of the year, like roses, can be found blooming at other times, sometimes even year-round.
Each Friday I’ll share five to ten flower photos from the Russel Ray Photos collection. I don’t always know all of the names, but when I do, I’ll let you know.
I use a Canon Rebel XSi and a Canon 550D, which is the same as the Canon Rebel T2i if you bought it in the United States. Mine was imported from London, England, before the Rebel T2i was available here. I use Corel Paintshop Pro X4 to crop or otherwise adjust the pictures and then to add a frame to them.
Today’s Friday Flower Fiesta pictures were taken on Christmas Day 2011 at the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park about 40 miles northeast of downtown San Diego.
I don’t take too many pictures of people, preferring nature and inanimate objects, but sometimes when I’m out and about I’ll see a picture of people that is too good to pass up, such as this one:
I thought that the two elderly women with their beautiful dogs, and one woman taking a picture, made a great picture.
I had a lot of extraneous feet at the top of the picture which I removed using Corel Paintshop Pro X4.
The picture was taken on November 23, 2011, when several hundred people (including me!) interrupted their Thanksgiving preparations to head to Mission Bay in San Diego to watch the recovery and necropsy of a dead fin whale:
The fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) is the second longest whale, getting up to 88 feet long, and the sixth largest living animal. Although a fin whale has never been weighed, estimates are that they average about 70,000 pounds but at their longest and heaviest, they could potentially get up to 150,000 pounds.
This fin whale was determined to have died from a ship strike, a common cause of death for whales along the Pacific Coast. It was a female and was pregnant at the time it was hit by a ship; the baby was expelled by decomposition gases after death and floated out to sea.
Marine biologists also gathered specimens from this fin whale; since it was pregnant, those specimens can provide valuable data about this endangered species. After the necropsy, it was towed about five miles out to sea where it was sunk to the ocean floor using about 25,000 pounds of steel. Over the next few years, marine biologists will study how it decomposes, what marine life feeds on it, and generally how dead whales contribute to the life of the ocean.
#2: Barn owls
On January 4, 2012, I headed out and about to attend an educational presentation about raptors. The presentation, by Sky Hunters of Lakeside, California (A on the map below), took place in Alpine (B):
The presentation featured an American kestrel, a red-tailed hawk, a western screech owl, and a barn owl. Here are three pictures of the barn owl:
The barn owl (Tyto alba) is the most widely distributed of the owls, occuring throughout the world except in polar and desert areas. It is a year-round resident of California, has become accustomed to human activities, and can be found in every county. It gets up to 18 inches long with a wingspan up to 48 inches and likes to roost and nest in dark cavities in trees, cliffs, and buildings.
This barn owl is injured and cannot be released into the wild. It makes its home at Sky Hunters, a nonprofit organization educating the public about raptors, promoting raptor conservation, and rehabilatating injured birds. Sky Hunters has a U.S. Federal Fish & Wildlife permit for rehabilitation, education, and eagle possession, as well as a California State Fish & Game permit for rehabilitation and education.
Sky Hunters depends on volunteers and donors to carry out its mission. If you would like to donate money, food, or any of the other items they regularly need, visit Sky Hunters funding.
Several years ago when I was doing a home inspection, I found a barn owl in the roof eaves keeping a very close eye on me:
I love seeing wildlife in zoos and aquariums, and at presentations, that I might not otherwise see, but there is something special about finding the wildlife in their natural habitat and being able to snap a picture of them.
#1: Birch Aquarium
at Scripps Institution of Oceanography
celebrates 20 years
The Birch Aquarium is now celebrating 20 years in its current location (it’s actually 109 years old) by offering 50% discounts on admissions on the twentieth of each month through September 2012. (Seems like it should have been a 20% discount….). It is located on Expedition Way in La Jolla with spectacular views of La Jolla and the Pacific Ocean.
The Aquarium is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and occupies just over 64,000 square feet. Its display tanks contain 175,000 of water with over 5,000 animals representing 380 species.
a 70,000-gallon kelp forest tank
a 13,000-gallon shark tank
Tide Pool Plaza where you can touch starfish and sea cucumbers
Coral Reef featuring the nautilus and lionfish
Over a dozen different species of seahorses (Birch Aquarium is a world leader in seahorse breeding)
Birch Aquarium is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Regular admission is $14 for adults, $10 for seniors,
$9.50 for children ages 3 to 17, and children under age 3 are free.
There are various other discounts available so be sure to check the Birch Aquarium web site.
Adobe Lightroom 4 Beta
is now available!
Adobe Lightroom 3.6 is my favorite program for doing quick and easy photo editing. I make great use of the Recovery, Fill Light, and Clarity sliders.
I downloaded Adobe Lightroom 4 Beta this morning only to find that the Recovery and Fill Light sliders have been done away with. They have been replaced with three sliders labeled Highlights, Shadows, and Whites.
Initially I was disappointed, but the three new sliders appear to be much more powerful than the old two.
The Clarity slider also appears to be much more powerful.
The Beta also has two new modules in it: Map and Book. Both of them look like they’ll be a lot of fun to play with.
There are already lots of reviews and tutorials out:
The Beta apparently is free until March 12, 2012. I look forward to using it for the next two months to see what the new features are and what the new version does better than the old version.